Around 11PM we awoke and got ourselves ready for the enduring seven hours that lay ahead.
I placed hand warmers in my gloves and foot warmers in my boots as added measures to keep my chill-ridden body warm. Unfortunately the nausea I’d had since about day 4 was still annoying me.
The headlamps strapped to each of our foreheads provided the only light for us until about 2AM when the moon was fully in the sky. Our group was incredibly silent, with the exception of Mark’s sporadic bursts of song (he was listening to his iPod). This fact helped us to continue for I think we all were quite exhausted. At one point my blinking even seemed labored. It was so cold and all we were doing was climbing up and up and up. Note: We would learn once we were off the mountain that our guide was climbing too quickly with us–some thought as a means of competing with another group, though I do not know for certain. This too added to our silence.
It was incredibly difficult to notice the terrain upon which we climbed, as the stars and moons provided some light, but not nearly enough for us to focus. I recall just watching the backpack of the person in front of me as well as their feet–at times it was Cal, or Dave, Chris, or Mark–actually I was pretty much all over the place so I think I followed just about everyone at one point or another.
As we met the Leomoshu group, congratulatory words were exchanged, tears and some high fives, but we couldn’t really muster much more. I wrote in my journal that as we passed them, (again thank you crazy guide man Tom) and told them we’d see them on Uhuru, it seemed we had to scale rocks again, just like at Barranco wall. There was a lot of sliding that night for it was quite difficult to get a foothold whilst being exhausted and climbing in the dark. Nevertheless, we managed to continue on all the while with the guides being of superb assistance. Shortly after this, we stopped for a brief, very brief water break. For the 2-3 minutes we were there, we had some water/gatorade and kept our fingers and toes moving as much as possible to deter frostbite from setting in. Even under the 5 layers of clothing I was wearing, I was still cold. I took some more advil for my headache and the group continued on with the town of Moshi and its bright lights dancing over our shoulders.
We could tell we were getting closer to the top because the sky was continuing to get lighter. We stopped again around 4AM to have some more water and just take a breather. It was at this time that the lovely Stan insisted he take my pack and carry it for me. I think my exhaustion was pretty obvious at this point! Oddly enough, I couldn’t feel much difference between having the pack removed from my back, though I am positive that it truly helped me be able to continue climbing. For the remainder of the climb, Stan remained right by my side, always asking how I was doing and sharing some words of encouragement. What a doll!
Just around 6AM, we could see Uhuru peak! The sun was just beginning to rise yet somehow the exhaustion subsided for a bit as our adrenaline kicked it! Our group exchanged shouts of elation as we hugged each other and celebrated being so close. I stayed at the rear with Stan as we pressed forward.
19,340 Feet holding the banner with all the names of family/friends for whom I climbed
There were many people trying to take a photo with the UHURU sign to celebrate their climb so we had to wait in a line. It seemed to take forever but as I waited, I snapped some photos of the glaciers that filled my view. Never before had I seen such incredible beauty. I also managed to do a short booty slap dance which I am known to do depending upon the occasion. Tom recorded me on Uhuru doing this and I even managed to convince the other Tom, our guide, to partake in the fun!*I’ll find this clip and upload it for the enjoyment of all soon. Mark and Stan headed down to one of the glaciers for a closer look. Apologies that I didn’t get any photos of that side adventure, though I know they had a good time.
After about 20 minutes of elation, Rick looked at me and said, “Climb down right now.” Dave and I headed back down and while doing so, we met Sheri and Brad and some of our Leomoshu friends! Everyone looked great (albeit a bit exhausted) and we encouraged them to keep climbing for a few more minutes. There were so close to Uhuru.
Starting our descent…
This was the first time I could actually see the terrain from the previous night. It was indeed, all rocks, so I prepared to “surf” down them to get to our camp. Soon, some of the other Regulators caught up to me as I was going pretty slow. Carroll, Chris and Mark floated down the rocks. I actually stopped at one point to just watch them! They were going so fast!
After several hours of climbing, we stopped at Barafu for some food and to change, as well as to catch a few zzz’s. I didn’t eat much, yet did manage to change and rest a bit. Apparently, once we started the descent to the final camp on Kilimanjaro, my body decided it had had enough and revolted! For the next 24 hours, I was quite sick, taking breaks about every hour to step off the trail and vomit. Sheri and Brad stayed with me almost the whole way down, as well as our guide Tom. Without the three of them, I’d probably still be wandering on Kilimanjaro; lost, but still pretty 🙂
I don’t remember much of our last camp or that day’s climb down, but I certainly remember the line at the little duka (shop) at that final camp. Not only could we sign our names to register at the camp, but we could also purchase cold beer and cola, a luxury that many of the climbers enjoyed! I opted for a coke and let it lose some of its fizz before attempting a sip. We were again reunited with the Leomoshu group and everyone exchanged stories of their climb, photos, laughs and tears.
That night, Esther (an MD), stayed with me in my tent to monitor my breathing and sickness, and was consequently deemed “Tent Doctor”. She was a Godsend and made sure I was OK.
After breakfast, we headed out in various groups. Before reaching the bottom there was one more little point where we could sign a check-in book. Several more hours later, we were greeted by some of the porters and guides singing beautiful songs of celebration as each climber received an official certificate of completion.We had made it!
Many thanks for joining me on this journey!
If merely reading about my journey wasn’t enough for you, I have great news for…
SAVE THE DATE: FEBRUARY 2013
KILIMANJARO CLIMB TO BENEFIT JOURNEYS OF SOLUTIONS’
CHILD SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM
MORE DETAILS TO FOLLOW!!
I was incredibly nauseous from Barranco Wall until the summit, so my journal had limited notes from the two days, however my memory certainly has not betrayed me! . . .
The last push up from Barranco wall and the many valleys left most of us incredibly tired the night we reached Karanga Hut. I recall really wanting a shower, having not showered in more than five days. A record that I would soon break the next day! Though there was no tub anywhere, Simon brought me a small basin, the love, and I used the waterless shampoo I had brought with me. If I couldn’t knock the nausea, at least I’d still be pretty whilst trying! You may think I’m crazy, but trust me, with long hair there’s nothing like a little freshening up like some waterless shampoo.
Before having evening grub (and after fighting some severe bouts of the chills), I managed to “wash” my hair. As I walked into the food tent, which would be another failed attempt at eating, I remember one of the guys sniffing the air and smiling before asking if I’d sit next to him. HA. Once we finished dinner, Rick read the postings from family and friends which could be received to his satellite phone. It was so great to hear from home and all of us in the tent soaked up every word of each message. Before heading to bed, I stood outside my tent and looked up at the stars and some of the twinkling lights in Moshi town for several minutes as I enjoyed a dessert of some pepto bismol tabs.
Headed to Barafu Camp…Simon awoke us the following morning as we were to begin the climb to the final camp, Barafu Camp, before we’d reach the summit. One of the most interesting bits from this day was the terrain. For most of the climb, it seemed like we were on another planet. There were jagged rocks, very thin and delicate, upon which we tread. I remember listening to our trekking poles hit the surface and thinking of the off broadway show STOMP.
Soon after stopping for a quick water break, we realized the specks of darkness if our view were not rocks nor bird, rather they were the climbers and porters ascending the mountain to Barafu Camp (which rest above 15,000 feet). We Regulators remarked on that fact for quite sometime as we continued on. I think the excitement and adrenaline was what pushed us so much this day, as we knew we were just hours away from beginning our final ascent to Uhuru Peak at 19,340 feet.
The one path leading us up to Barafu!
We finally reached the camp after a relatively short day of hiking. The Leomoshu group passed through our camp, en route to theirs which was closer to Uhuru. We would see them again around midnight, about an hour into our climb to Uhuru. We acted as a receiving line as each person passed–giving out hugs, high fives and words of encouragement to our friends.
Anyway, once I found my tent, I decided to change outfits. As I pulled my sweatshirt over my head and placed it next to me on my sleeping bag, I was incredibly winded and my breathing quite labored! Apparently something as simple as that movement proves quite difficult at 15,000+ feet!
The clouds were especially fun at Barafu Camp–one minute the sky would be blue, the next it was as white as snow!
We also had some fun taking photos, an invited distraction as the air became thick with anxiety for our next day of climbing.
Like all the previous nights we had spent on Kilimanjaro, we changed and had some dinner. After Cal read a beautiful card from his family and I prayed for the group and our climb, everyone retired to bed for about two or three hours in preparation for our final ascent at 11PM. The plan was to climb through the night, for about seven hours, until we reached Uhuru Peak and met the sun rise along the way.
I willed myself to sleep but just as soon as my eyes were closed it felt as though it was time to leave again! We had some hot tea/coffee/Milo, took some photos and hugged each other as we began our longest night on Kilimanjaro, on top of the world.
I awoke feeling quite well rested and made sure to layer on the sunscreen for another hot day in the sun. The group was thrilled that we would be reunited with our fellow climbers later that day. One of the Regulators, Jim, especially was for soon enough he and his love, Bonnie would see each other. Just a brief tid-bit on Jim and Bonnie: both of these amazing people are cancer survivors and met through the JOI climb. Shortly following the climb (we would learn), Jim would ask his Trail Angel to marry him. It was a beautiful love story and continues to be.*
Anyway, the clouds and fog chased us up the hills and through the valleys as we made our way to our friends.
We reunited with our friends around lunch time, then some of the crew, myself included, headed to Lava Tower, which would take us to the highest point of elevation to date. (Roughly 15000). The climb there and back was exquisite, the fog remained with us, at times clearing so we could see more of Kilimanjaro’s expansive landscape. As we headed back to camp, we were met briefly with some hail and slick rocks. Thankfully we all managed to stay upright. We knew we’d have an incredibly difficult day tomorrow, for we’d be climbing Barranco wall.
Reunited and it feels so good…finally we meet our friends!
Just arrived and resting @ Lava: Rick, Jack, & Dave
*Jim and Bonnie were married later in 2008 with most of us JOI folks in attendance. I wrote a song for them, “Trail Angel,” which was performed at their wedding as a gift from the JOI family!
Thanks to Jack for some borrowed photos 🙂
Closing of Day 1: Climbing up to Machame Camp, it was suggested, jokingly I had thought, that I would share a tent with Mark, the other person who was solo for a tent buddy. Since the other woman on the trail had come with her boyfriend, that left Mark and me as singles. I should clarify, it was mostly Mark who proposed the idea!! Anyway, much to my surprise, his words seemed prophetic as I arrived at my tent only to find a hole in the top! After dinner, which I must say had incredibly delicious tasting food like hotdogs, toast, tomatoes and soup, which was a delicacy only for the first few days, I shifted to Mark’s tent and all was quite for several hours, until the snoring began! As I awoke to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, tears nearly fell upon my cheeks as I gazed up at the sky. Instead of appearing to be speckled with stars, it was as though tiny specks of darkness were placed between the many stars.
Day 2: Leaving Machame Camp for Shira Camp We hiked about 6-7 hours to get to Shira camp. The day began with an uphill climb on rock, which at first sight made my knees hurt! The colors were just as rich as they had been the day prior, though the sun was much hotter and less forgiving, as we saw no rain during the morning. The climb was quite grueling and I remember feeling as though my heart beat was in my mouth. The laughter and carrying-on continued as we distracted ourselves from the intensity of it all. The team stopped briefly to snap some shots…
Climbing to get above the clouds
I specifically recall this day being the first (with several more to follow) that I was actually standing above the clouds. While I had flown many a times above the clouds to gaze down at the land/people below, I’d never been outside looking down at the clouds. It was simply, spectacular. One of the many amazing things about climbing Kilimanjaro is the speed at which the weather changes. Within moments you go from sweating in the sun, squinting your eyes to not be blinded by the hot equatorial sun, to having goosebumps on your body as the fog sets in and you cannot get on another layer fast enough! The quick change in weather thankfully didn’t involve the downpour we experienced in the rain forest, though visibility was significantly less.
Just finished lunch and waiting to continue on (Jim and Carl)
There was some additional excitement amongst the Regulators, as our camp wasn’t too far from the Leomoshu group who left one day before our departure. By the end of the day, we had successfully made it to Shira and Rick and Matt stopped by to see us. Rick owns/operates Pack Paddle Ski, an outdoor adventure company that does Kili climbs in addition to crazy adventures in/out of the US. http://www.packpaddleski.com. Matt works at American Cancer Society up in Rochester and if you chat with him long enough, he will have convinced you to join him at ACS. Simply, these two men are rock stars. We excitedly recounted the two days of adventure to Rick and Matt, like small children telling their parents about the first day of school! Rick admitted, he knew we were getting a down pour through the Rain Forest, just by looking at the clouds above the area. The two also reported that their crew was feeling great and looking forward to seeing us the following day as we all climbed towards Barranco camp.
Perhaps it’s the child, or romantic in me, but I couldn’t help also notice the beautiful flowers that grew between rocks in some odd places. At times one could certainly miss the delicate petals or even worse, harpoon then with a trekking pole. I did not experience any of this, as we Regulators climbed. After dinner I ended the night by looking at the stars again and chatting with some of my fellow Regulators. Stan, one of our beloved guides invited me to join him and some of the other guides for a card game in their tent but as I was journaling that night I fell asleep before taking him up on the offer.
Again, many thanks to Tom for some photos 🙂
As we all awoke on Day 3 in Tanzania, the excitement we had felt for our fellow climbers just 24 hours prior, had intensified! I personally think I was in a state of shock as I checked…and rechecked my packed bags for everything I could think I might need as we traveled through 5 climate zones.
Once our bags were all packed, we set off on the shuttle ride! The journey to the mountain was just as colorful as the previous two days as I continued to see shades of colors I had never seen. The deep greens and blues, as well as rich reds and yellows continued to astound me as I fought every urge to blink. The ride, which was in reality less than an hour, felt like days.
Soon enough we found ourselves at the Macheme Gate! We each signed the guest register book, used the choo (toilet) and waited until it was time for us to begin the climb. Ah the joy of patience. We started out at around 10,000 feet at the gate and would climb about 4,000 feet to the first camp that night. Beginning in the rain forest just before lunch time, I found myself to be chattier than normal–sorry men! Not sure if you remember, but I was one of two women amongst ten men on our Regulator team. Thankfully I have an older brother and a father so the humor/jokes did not get to me as much as amuse me, despite the fact I was the youngest on the team, at just 23 years old.
At Machame Gate
Mark and Chris, ever resourceful, finding another use for trekking poles…soon enough we three became the comedy act of the Regulators, providing comic relief and distractions during the most intense of days. Special shout out to Adam Sandler, Chris Farley and Jim Carey movies…from which most of our stories derived! I love these two.
As we climbed that day, I learned so much about my fellow Regulators. I listened to their stories about surviving cancer as well as celebrating with loved ones who had overcome the disease. I couldn’t help but be inspired by these men who for the most part could be my father, as they shared their stories of becoming involved with Journeys of Solutions. Amidst hearing the stories, we truly experienced the rain forest with a HUGE downpour which lasted about an hour. It was in these moments that I first learned my “waterproof” jacket was like having a piece of newspaper upon me to shield rainfall. Simply, I was soaked to the bone. I would learn later than the batch of jackets from which mine came was the one compromised box of an entire shipment, that didn’t receive the proper chemicals/materials to ensure dryness. Good times.
Trying to enjoy a boxed lunch AND remain dry at the same time. Clearly from the look on Chris’ face (grey and navy jacket), one can see how happy we were!
Jim helping Mark en route to Machame Camp…just another glimpse of teamwork and bonding
Finally, after a long first day, we arrived at camp, signed in and then unpacked before dinner. I must admit, we were most spoiled for by the time we had arrived at camp each night of our climb: our tents were already set up with our bags inside and usually there was hot food/tea waiting for us. The porters and guides are incredibly hardworking.*
*FYI, many of the climbing organizations are part of KPAP (Kili Porters Assistance Program) http://kiliporters.org/. This guarantees that the porters working for the companies listed on the website are treated fairly, receive good wages and have the correct climbing gear.
Special thanks to Tom Stevens for some of the photos above
We awoke on Day 2 in Tanzania and bid farewell and “safari njema” to the first group of Kili Climbers. We helped them pack their bags and load them atop the shuttle bus headed to Kilimanjaro. The excitement, as well as twinges of anxiety, were palatable! The group would set off on a roughly 30 minute drive to the gate. The next time we would see them was on their 4th (our 3rd) day atop Kilimanjaro.
Packing the bags
Here’s a shot of the crew before the first group departed.
Once we said kwa herini to the group (good bye), the twelve of us headed for the Macheme Route, the Regulators, as we deemed ourselves, headed into Moshi town. We stopped at various markets, both food and souvenirs, before arriving at a local pub for lunch, East African Inn. This was the first time I was introduced to ugali, the maize-flour based staple that is very much an acquired taste. At first, one would find it easy to think mashed potatoes were accompanying the kuku (chicken), ndizi (banana) and mchicha (veggie combo of spinach, onions & tomatoes). Within the first bite though, as I was to find out, the taste is nothing like the beloved spud. The first few times I tasted it, I had trouble finding enjoyment, though I must admit now, I rather fancy it!
To eat ugali (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ugali), one takes a bit of it in the right hand and rolls it into a ball before dipping it in the desired sauce/meat. It’s especially good with stewed chicken or stewed vegetables. In addition to being introduced to ugali and some traditional Tanzanian fare, I was formally introduced to the “squatty potty”.
While you might think at first, “Wow, just a hole?!” it seemed most luxurious as I was to spend the next 8 days on a mountain, sans flushing.
Anyway, we Regulators really bonded that day and I was especially grateful for this, as I did not know anyone with whom I was climbing. Part of the magic of climbing with the Kilimanjaro Journeys of Inspiration Group is that training hikes had taken place for nearly a year leading up to the climb. Because most of the climbers were from the Rochester area, there was an incredibly strong bond between the group prior to arriving in Tanzania. Luckily for my delicate self and the others who had not participated in the training hikes, the group’s bond was not one of exclusion, rather it certainly was like a family in every aspect.
Walking around Moshi town was incredibly eye-opening and unlike anything I had ever experienced. From women selling beautifully stacked vegetables to young boys practicing their English with us whilst trying to sell trinkets, again it was sensory overload. Before I knew it, we were headed back to the hotel to get some rest and relax before heading to Macheme Gate. En route, as we had done the same morning going to town, we passed over a railroad track. Rather than trains upon its tracks, I saw women and children, and some men, walking home, walking to work, and walking from school.
Once back at Springlands hotel, I was again reminded that my bag was nowhere to be found. Mark, a fellow climber, too was missing a bag. We both had rallied with the others to ask for clothing/gear for the climb as we were in need. Most everyone had packed too much clothing so were were in luck! All the while though, I was desperately hoping my bag would arrived from NYC. To pass the time, I spent some moments in the internet cafe area, writing back home and assuring family/friends I had arrived safely (albeit without much clothing!)
After dinner, whilst sitting in the courtyard area chatting with some Regulators, I was elated to find out my bag had arrived and would be present in time to make the climb with me. I unpacked items and repacked for the climb, which was in less than 15 hours. My roommate, Alison, was in the first group of climbers so I was all alone that night. Excitement and anticipation ravaged my body but thankfully I managed a few winks!
Day 1: An earlier flight, a missing bag and my first Maasai
After an almost two day trip from JFK to Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO), via Heathrow and Dar es Salaam, only one of my two bags arrived in Moshi at the airport! Luckily, my mother always reminded me to carry a change of undergarments, a bathing suit, tooth brush and book so I wasn’t entirely out of luck for the first two nights. Also, I had my hiking boots and pack with me in the cabin so at the very least I could climb a day or two before I needed my bag, in which ALL of my cold gear was packed. Because the adventure of missing one bag just wasn’t fun enough for me, my flights were also changed, which brought me to the airport about 6 hours ahead of schedule, with no driver/friendly face to be found. More on this in a moment.Simply, it’s always an adventure!
En route from Dar to JRO, the pilot announced, “Passengers, please look out your window and you’ll see Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.” Upon hearing this exciting proclamation, I instinctively looked down, as my brain knew I was in an airplane, thousands of feet in the air. Much to my surprise and terror, I had to cock my head UP to see the snows of Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet. Thankfully I masked my shock and found comfort in praying for a brief moment, “Lord, please protect me. What have I gotten myself into?” It was in those first few moments after looking UP at a mountain from an airplane window that the magnitude of the climb really set it. In the weeks leading up to my departure, I thought myself so smart in choosing the “Around the World” or “Kilimanjaro” options on the cardio machines during my daily morning and evening workouts. Alas, the time had come to hear “Karibu Tanzania”, 19,340 or BUST!
When I arrived at JRO amidst the throngs of Gore-tex clad climbers, khaki/linen-wearing safari goers, and the bright fabrics of the women’s dresses, I breathed in the warm Tanzanian air. Still quite in shock that I was there, I couldn’t help but recall the words I mentioned to my mother as a young teenager, announcing my desire to live/work in Africa. As I squinted my eyes once I emerged from the cabin and descended the metal steps, it was surreal to finally be in a place I had only ever seen in my dreams.
Well, I gathered my one bag and walked through the arrival crowd, searching for a “Karibu Elizabeth” sign with nervous hope. Though the driver who was slated to meet me at JRO was not there, for I was quite ahead of schedule, I managed to get through to the Kili Climb group in Moshi and they assured me I could take a taxi to them. Scrambling and fumbling through my papers with contact names/numbers, I felt a fool for not knowing any Kiswahili. *Note, I HIGHLY recommend anyone traveling to any country to at least learn a few simple phrases. While being a pretty face has gotten me quite far, verbal communication is immensely helpful! : )
Anyway, as I hopped inside the white taxi with red crushed velvet-like interior, I suffered from sensory overload. Never before had I seen such beautiful clouds, skies, trees and people; and in such vivacious colors, too! I couldn’t take pictures quickly enough so I assured myself, “These will be recorded in your memory forever even though there’s no physical picture to confirm it,” as I set my camera down and tried hard not to blink for fear of missing something. As the taxi sped along the tarmac, I not only caught glimpses of Kilimanjaro’s icy peak, but also was entranced by the young children watching over herds of goat and cattle with nothing more than a stick. I felt I was in a story book. Because I love you too much, and also cherish the fact that you return to read these entries, I will not scan the sketching I attempted in my journal to remind me of the beautiful things I saw on this drive! I don’t want to jeopardize future visits! In the forty minutes it took from JRO, I felt as though just a second, maybe five, had passed. Exiting the taxi, I walked through the gates of Springlands Hotel to meet some of the most fantastic and amazing people I have ever known. Truly, my journey of inspiration had begun!
Terminal 21 at Heathrow airport, where I was assured my bags were en route from JFK and would seamlessly make it to Dar then to JRO.
Dar Airport…and the empty baggage claim area!
Walking into the JRO Airport
Along the drive to the hotel…
(Owned/Operated by Zara Tours)
The banner I carried in my pack from JFK to Uhuru peak. The names of family/friends who had fought cancer were listed as well as special notes of encouragement from loved ones.
More on Journeys of Inspiration can be found by visiting: http://joiacs.webs.com/